Opening night of the NFL draft is usually a time we celebrate the conference that leads the world in celebrating itself. That’d be the SEC, which recruits the best players and produces the most draftees and, not coincidentally, usually wins the national championship. But for the highest and mightiest, this Draft Thursday wasn’t most Draft Thursdays.
Even before Roger Goodell began calling names, the SEC had suffered a reversal. The NCAA Division I board of directors overruled the Division I council’s vote to ban satellite camps. South Carolina president and board chairman Harris Pastides said his group “is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment.”
This might turn out to be a temporary reversal for the SEC, which lobbied long against such camps. Commissioner Greg Sankey expressed his disappointment that the ban had been rescinded and, in grand SEC style, offered a grand harrumph by saying his coaches were now free to join the satellite-camping fun. (The ACC, which also opposes the camps, said the same.)
Because everything in life comes down to personalities, Thursday’s reversal was viewed as yet another triumph for Jim Harbaugh. Michigan’s spring practices at the IMG Academy in Florida frosted everyone involved with SEC, which tickled Harbaugh to no end. He took to Twitter to gig Sankey (calling him a whiner) and three SEC coaches — Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Tennessee’s Butch Jones and Hugh Freeze of Ole Miss.
On Thursday, Harbaugh offered only a bland statement, telling the Associated Press that the ban’s repeal was “good for prospective student-athletes, fans, coaches and competition.” Michigan’s Twitter account posted a GIF that showed Harbaugh hitching up his famous khaki pants, much as the dauntless Arnold Palmer used to do when striding down fairways.
As for Ole Miss: Ten minutes before the draft commenced, a video appeared on Laremy Tunsil’s Twitter feed showing the offensive lineman wearing a gas mask while indulging in what appeared to be a substance legal in Colorado but not Mississippi. Some analysts believed Tunsil to be the most talented player in this draft. He was picked 13th overall.
Tunsil claimed his Twitter feed had been hacked. There was thought that his stepfather, who’s suing Tunsil, had been the hacker. The stepfather denied being the source of the video. Then things really got weird.
Shortly after the Miami Dolphins picked Tunsil, his Instagram posted screen shots of what seemed to be a text exchange with John Miller, an Ole Miss assistant athletic director, in which Tunsil requests money to pay his mother’s rent and utilities. Miller’s apparent response: “I thought we all agreed on an (amount). That number keeps changing.”
An earlier Miller reply: “See Barney next week.” Barney Farrar is another Ole Miss assistant AD.
Meeting with reporters at the draft, Tunsil claimed his Instagram was likewise hacked. When asked if he took money from coaches, he said: “I’d have to say that happened.”
Tunsil missed the first seven games last season for, among other things, using three loaner vehicles without payment. Along with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, he was part of a 2013 recruiting class that catapulted Ole Miss into the SEC’s top tier. Nkemdiche’s arrest on marijuana charges after he fell from a ledge at the Atlanta Grand Hyatt in December similarly lowered his draft profile. (He was the 29th pick of Round 1.)
If not for Arkansas’ fourth-down conversion on a wild lateral, Ole Miss – not Alabama, the eventual national champ – would have played for the SEC title. The Rebels have graced major bowls the past two seasons, but some have wondered how they landed their players. The NCAA has been investigating Ole Miss for a while now.
As for Alabama: The Tuscaloosa News reported Thursday that Crimson Tide assistant Bo Davis was “expected to resign or be fired” due to “possible recruiting violations.” We say for emphasis: This is regal Alabama, not upstart Ole Miss.
We can’t know for sure, but Thursday might have ended with Harbaugh hitching up his pajama pants before turning in. His Southern satellite tour is again a go. The first camp is scheduled for June 2 at Atlanta’s Maynard H. Jackson High. The Michigan man will actually share top billing that day with Smart, whom Harbaugh didn’t deign to name on Twitter in March, calling him “the Georgia coach.”
Apparently Smart has learned a lesson: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. At least off the field, nobody in the SEC can beat Jim Harbaugh.